Steve Anderson (@web20classroom) published a blog post recently about the role of backchannel at professional conferences.
So what does the term "backchannel" mean? Wikipedia explains:
The term "backchannel" generally refers to online conversation about the topic or the speaker. Occasionally backchannel provides audience members a chance to fact-check the presentation.
Twitter is also widely used today by audiences to create backchannels at technology conferences. When audience members add an event hashtag to their tweets (for example, #w2e was the hashtag used for the Web 2.0 Expo New York in 2009), anyone can run a Twitter search to review all the backchannel tweets related to that event.
As mentioned above, Twitter is the most common backchannel tool. (If you're on Twitter, you can find me at @KerryHawk02.) Critics of backchannel discussions contend that they are rude and disruptive. That is the primary focus of Anderson's blog post, although he disagrees and is a big proponent of backchannel. He has links to several examples of backchannel causing problems at conferences.
The other hand, proponents of backchannel assert that backchannel conversations offer audience members a chance to critique and fact check the information they are receiving in real time. That got me thinking...
How often do we give our students an opportunity to critique and fact check the activities and information we present to them every day? Student feedback, positive and negative, shouldn't be something we shy away from. In an effort to get more feedback from my freshmen, I have one student each day post a comment on our class blog reflecting on their work AND my teaching that day. It isn't in real time, like backchannel is, but the blog instructions require that students include what they liked or disliked about the class that day. Whenever a student offers a critique, I acknowledge it and thank them for the feedback on the grading rubric the next day. I want them to know that their opinion matters to me. Here are some excerpts (positive and negative):
The explorer's chart was due today. You had to fill in each explorer's sponsering country, job, and their greatest achievment. It helped me get a better understanding about each of the explorer's, but I think that we should've gone over it more slowly because I missed a lot of the information because we were going so fast. While we were going over the chart, we filled in the exploration routes of some of the explorer's on our maps. -Alexa B. 10/22/09
Nothing was due today in class except for our presentations on the Native American tribe we chose. My group chose the Aleut tribe, and I enjoyed the assignment. I learned a lot from doing this presentation, about the Aleut culture, and what they ate, and where they were located. I liked that we used Google Docs for the powerpoint, because the collaboration feature makes it really easy to do during groups. -Jon R. 11/18/09
In class we finished taking notes on the posters. Everyone got in the small groups of 3-4, and dictated the information that they wrote to the group. Each of the posters were about the Spanish explorers, their background, and goals/accomplishments. Personally I thought the whole process took way to long and I did not like it at all, but if I think about it I would rather do that than take notes from the board. -Jackie T. 12/3/09
Mrs. Gallagher prepared a few slides with information about section divide up into different topics with pictures and links to videos. She would talk about the stuff on the slide and then show a video or point to a picture. The information was easy to understand because it was presented in a way you can visualize. I liked this activity because it wasn't just taking notes, it was watching the videos and listening to the teacher as well. -Nicole A. 12/7/09
Their opinions have helped me tweek my lesson plans and project designs already this year. Why wait for the end of the year to hand out a student feedback form? Immediate responses are more valid and more likely to prompt you to make real changes to your lesson plans. Digest the criticism, bounce back, and move forward.